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Avoid These Common Mistakes When You Receive an Inheritance

A new client recently told me, “My late father left me an inheritance of an IRA inheritance(Individual Retirement Account) worth $1.5 million, and I’m the sole beneficiary. What should I do with it? If I bring the money to Israel, I’ll have to sell the stocks and wire the money to my account here. But if I do that, I’ll have to pay tax in the United States and maybe Israel, too.”

Unfortunately, many beneficiaries make costly money mistakes. Read about the mistakes you should avoid if one day you receive an inheritance, and then check out our free interactive tool.

Don’t take money out of the IRA

If a beneficiary withdraws the funds from the IRA, he’ll lose a fantastic American tax benefit. People with regular IRAs only pay tax on the money they withdraw. Any money remaining in the account can continue to grow untaxed. An inheritor can transfer the original IRA into a “beneficiary IRA” (a.k.a. “stretch IRA”) and this maintains the tax-deferred status of the account until the money is eventually withdrawn.

No U.S. capital gains tax on sales inside an IRA

According to IRS rules, U.S. citizens holding IRAs don’t pay capital gains tax (or tax on interest and dividends) when they sell stocks for a profit inside their account. This is a huge benefit when compounded over many years.

Probably no estate tax

U.S. citizens who leave their estates to their American-citizen spouses or children don’t have to pay estate tax as long as they don’t exceed the “federal estate tax exemption,” which is $5.45 million (as of 2016). (Be sure to consult with a qualified tax advisor in case there’s any state or local estate tax.)

As I don’t give tax advice to clients, I always tell beneficiaries of an inheritance to consult tax professionals. I often work directly with clients and their accountants to make sure that their investments and tax obligations are handled properly.

If you’re getting an inheritance and you live in Israel, make sure to check out our free interactive tool.

Douglas Goldstein, CFP®, investment advisor, is the co-author with Grandmaster Susan Polgar of Rich As A King: How the Wisdom of Chess Can Make You a Grandmaster of Investing and director of Profile Investment Services, Ltd. which specializes in cross border investing and financial planning.


Profile Perspectives is a personal finance blog based on articles Doug Goldstein, CFP®, director of Profile Investment Services, Ltd., published in The Jerusalem Post. The information posted is purely informational and does not constitute investment or tax advice. Advertisements on the site are neither endorsements nor recommendations. Consult your professional advisors before making any investments based on articles or advertisements. Securities offered through Portfolio Resources Group, Inc., member of FINRA, SIPC, MSRB, FSI. Accounts carried by Pershing LLC., Member NYSE/SIPC, a subsidiary of The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation.

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